While on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, streets go empty with many Catholic households munching on their festive dinner, Chinese restaurants are as busy as ever. You’ve probably heard about a Jewish custom of eating Chinese food on Christmas. But do you really know where this tradition comes from?

Thanks to Twitter user Megan, who introduces herself as “Jewish, feminist, and plant mom,” we now have this Jewish holiday ritual explained in a viral thread. “If I could choose any words to describe the phenomenon of Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas, I think they would be escapism, proximity, commonality, and unity,” she said and went on explaining how it actually works.

Megan’s thread amassed 87.5K likes and 13.2K retweets, showing that there are some incredible historical reasons behind the fact that Chinese food places open their doors to Jews on Christmas.

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And this Twitter user explained why in a viral thread

Image credits: kehillahjewess

Image credits: kehillahjewess

Image credits: kehillahjewess

Bored Panda reached out to Megan, the author of this viral thread who said that being Jewish, she has often eaten Chinese food in the past since “it was a good way to get together with other families who did not celebrate the day either.” Megan also said she never really knew this “pseudo-tradition had actual historical roots outside just doing whatever we could when it feels like the entire city shuts down.”

Megan, who describes herself as a feminist and plant mom on her Twitter bio, claims that even though most people think that Jewish people would eat Chinese food since it’s the only thing open, “it’s also important to understand where that motivation came from.”

Image credits: kehillahjewess

Image credits: kehillahjewess

Image credits: kehillahjewess

Moreover, the thread author explained that “eating Chinese food on Christmas originally started as something unique to the NY Jewish community, as can be seen by many families saying this isn’t custom for other locations, like California, for example.”

“Even so, I think that because so many Jewish immigrants came to NY in the 1800-1900s, a lot of traditions through assimilation did form there and as families moved throughout the US, we continue to change as the stories slightly do.”

Image credits: kehillahjewess

Image credits: kehillahjewess

Image credits: kehillahjewess

When asked if she expected the thread to go viral, Megan confessed she absolutely didn’t. “I tweet often about Judaism and the issues the Jewish community faces and so few people outside our community tend to focus on those issues, so it was a real surprise seeing such a positive response from something that seems so simple.”

Image credits: kehillahjewess

Image credits: kehillahjewess

Image credits: kehillahjewess

The Twitter thread seems to be drawing similar arguments to those published in the scientific article “New York Jews and Chinese Food: The Social Construction of an Ethnic Pattern” by Gaye Tuchman and Harry G. Levine. The 1992 article has been printed in the “Contemporary Ethnography” magazine.

According to the authors, over the years, New York Jews have found in Chinese restaurants a food-flexible open symbol, “a kind of blank screen on which they have projected a series of themes relating to their identity as modern Jews and as New Yorkers.”

The themes weren’t inherent in Chinese food itself, but “rather, Jewish New Yorkers linked these cultural themes with eating in Chinese restaurants,” Tuchman and Levine explained.

More people joined the thread to comment and share what they know of this Jewish holiday custom

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Even though Chinese food “is unkosher and therefore non-Jewish,” because of the way it’s prepared and served, “immigrant Jews and their children found Chinese food to be more attractive and less threatening than other non-Jewish or ‘treyf food.’”

The second important point, Tuchman and Levine state, is that for Jews, eating in Chinese restaurants signified that one was not provincial, and cosmopolitan.

And the third dominating theme is that “Jews identified eating Chinese restaurant food as something that modern American Jews, and especially New York Jews, did together.”

Over the years, eating Chinese became one important Jewish holiday custom that became a part of self-identity and daily life for millions of Jews, especially the ones of New York.

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And this is what others had to say